Digest Week 4 Michaelmas Term 2020

MT20, Week 4 (1st - 7th November)

If you have entries for the weekly Digest, please send information to admin@philosophy.ox.ac.uk by midday, Wednesday the week before the event. 

Unless otherwise stated, all events will take place online.

Notices - other Philosophy events, including those taking place elsewhere in the university and beyond

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Mass Incarceration Reading Group | 17:00-18:00 | Online

We will be discussing Chapters 1 and 6 of the book “Are Prisons Obsolete?” Contact tena.thau@philosophy.ox.ac.uk for the meeting link and to be added to the mailing list. 

Intimacies of Violence: Conflict, Rape and Sexual Desire | 13:00-14:45 | Online via Zoom

Speaker: Jelke Boesten (King's College London)

The events will be held via the online platform Zoom and will require prior registration. For further details on how to register and join the webinars, please watch this space and visit our events webpage - the latter will be updated regularly.

Annual Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics (online): Professor Michael Otsuka | 15:30 - 17:45 |Further Information

Lecture 1: The case for a funded pension with a defined benefit (DB)

Abstract: I begin by drawing attention to the efficiencies in the pooling of longevity and investment risk that collective funded pension schemes provide over individual defined contribution (IDC) pension pots in guarding against your risk of living too long. I then turn to an analysis of those collective schemes that promise the following defined benefit (DB): an inflation-proof income in retirement until death, specified as a fraction of your salary earned during your career. I consider the concepts and principles within and beyond financial economics that underlie the valuation and funding of such a pension promise. I assess the merits of the 'actuarial approach' to funding an open, ongoing, enduring DB scheme at a low rate of contributions invested in 'return-seeking' equities and property. I also consider the merits of the contrasting 'financial economics approach', which calls for a higher rate of contributions set as the cost of bonds that 'match' the liabilities. I draw on the real-world case of the UK's multi-employer Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) to adjudicate between these approaches. The objectives of the Pensions Regulator, the significance of the Pension Protection Fund, and the decision of Trinity College Cambridge to withdraw from USS to protect itself against being the 'last man standing', all figure in the discussion.

Speaker: Professor Michael Otsuka is a Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Libertarianism without Inequality (OUP 2003) plus a number of articles in journals such as Philosophy & Public Affairs and Ethics, mainly on topics in normative ethics and distributive justice. His current research interests encompass prioritarianism, egalitarianism, and the separateness of persons; collective goods and the benefits of cooperation; risk-pooling, pensions, and insurance; the fairness and value of risks and chances of benefits; property ownership and the nature of money; and left-libertarianism versus social democracy and socialism. The focus of his teaching is on philosophy and public policy as well as moral and political philosophy. He posts blogs on Medium on issues related to public policy -- mainly on pensions but also on health insurance, the measure of inflation, and the funding of higher education. For the impact of his pensions blogs, Otsuka was ranked #23 of 50, alongside Vice Chancellors, Ministers of State, and top civil servants, on the ‘UK Higher Education Power List’ 2018 of those who had the most influence on this higher education sector that year. According to the assessors: “Pension schemes are complex beasts, with a large number of nested assumptions. So it takes a skilled philosopher to unpick the logic and follow the trails of meaning to their inherent contradictions. In Michael, USS actuaries found a formidable opponent, and it is no exaggeration to say his blog posts changed the course of the dispute.”



Plato Reading Group | 14:00–16:00 | Online

This term, we continue reading the Theaetetus. At the start of the term, we were at 168c5; the specific section of the week is sent around by email in advance. Each session is led by a person appointed in the preceding session, preparing the translation of the agreed-upon section of the text especially diligently. The sessions consist in the presenter’s translation of the passage and discussion of whatever interesting or uncertain point that arises, whenever it arises. We use the Greek text (OCT) as the basis for our discussion, and everybody should have prepared the week’s section in advance. People who do not know Greek or are just starting to learn it are welcome to attend. 

If you want to be included in the email list, please subscribe here.

For more information please email hermann.koerner@philosophy.ox.ac.uk.

Introduction to research ethics at Oxford (Social Sciences and Humanities) workshop | 2-3pm | Online via Teams

This termly session is aimed at graduate students, early career researchers and interested research support staff in the social sciences and humanities. It provides an overview of the research ethics review process at the University of Oxford.

> More details


WEH/Ethox Seminar | 2:30 – 4:00pm | This seminar will be held on Zoom, further information here

Speaker: Professor Jennifer Merchant, University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas

Title: Access to Artificial Reproductive Technologies: The Case of France and Belgium

Abstract: to follow here.


Hegel Reading Group | The Phenomenology of Spirit | 18:00-19:30 | Online

The Hegel Reading Group continues to meet by Skype on Wednesdays 18.00-19.30. New readers are welcome.

We are reading 'The Phenomenology of Spirit' (any translation), this week paras 455-462. Please contact susanne.herrmann-sinai@philosophy.ox.ac.uk for the Skype link.


Africana Philosophy discussion group |  17:00 | Online

Speaker: Jane Anna Gordon - Creolising theory in Africana philosophy

Visit our facebook page for the zoom links or our website to sign up to our mailing list.

Birkbeck Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) Group | 18:00-20:00 | Online

Speaker: Anton Wilhelm Amo - A (pro)vocation

The Birkbeck Philosophy department has recently started its own chapter of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP). We think that philosophy as a discipline is not diverse enough, and we want to work towards: a) building an inclusive philosophical community at Birkbeck, and b) promoting minority philosophers and philosophical topics at Birkbeck and beyond.

The Birkbeck group for Minorities and Philosophy invites you to join our Inaugural Lecture, which will be given by Dr. Dwight K. Lewis (University of Central Florida) on November 6th 2020. The title of this lecture is "Anton Wilhelm Amo: a (Pro)vocation”. Amo (1703 – c. 1759) was the first African Ph.D. and teacher of philosophy at a European university in the modern era, and made important but neglected contributions to debates around Cartesian mind/body dualism.

Dr. Lewis’s research focuses on concepts of human difference (e.g., race, gender, and sexuality), underrepresented philosophers, early modern philosophy generally construed, Africana Philosophy, and philosophy of race. He also runs a podcast on related topics called Larger, Freer, More Loving. We are super excited to start off the academic year and our newly formed MAP chapter with Dr. Lewis’s talk. 

Book your place here.